A few years back I was watching a TV show about famous child actors of the past. There were interviews and a round table discussion with among others Patty Duke, Kim Fields and Paul Petersen.
They were discussing the hardships of being a child actor as well as the difficulty of making the transition to adults in the spotlight. Many were not able to navigate this road and the results have often been tragic.
Yet one person at the round table was the odd woman out. Margaret O’Brien.
She refused to feel sorry for herself, didn’t really have any tales of woe to tell and looked back at her time as a child star with fondness.
None of these entertainers were saying anything O’Brien didn’t already know. In 1942 Dore Schary saw the potential in Angela Maxine O’Brien and cast her in Journey For Margaret. Her amazing performance made her an overnight sensation at the ripe old age of…five.
O’Brien was in such command of her craft that she would ask directors:”When I cry, do you want the tears to run all the way or shall I stop halfway down?”
In the early fifties O’Brien’s remarkable run in the movies was essentially over but unlike many of her contemporaries O’Brien took it in stride and kept it moving. If the movies no longer could find a place for her than television did and she jumped in with enthusiasm.
And this quote from O’Brien is a perfect example of taking it in stride:
“The wonderful thing about TV is that it has given me a chance to get out of the awkward age — something the movies couldn’t do for me. No movie producer could really afford to take a chance at handing me an adult role.”
At the age of 19 she understood the dilemma a movie producer would be in even though she had a proven track record. That’s a pro. That’s class.